The hits just keep on coming for Ole Miss. After the meltdown on Draft Day for Laremy Tunsil's social media accounts, the NCAA has verified that those texts are indeed authentic. From the "when it rains it pours" file, Tunsil's stepdad wants to depose Hugh Freeze in his lawsuit against Tunsil.
The guys over at Red Cup have of course been on the Tunsil beat, and they are doing their best Baghdad Bob impression to assure everyone that those giant pillars of smoke do not indicate a fire.
But let's be clear, predicting what the NCAA infractions committee is going to do is a fool's errand. They were delivered wat appeared to be airtight cases against UNC and Miami, yet neither suffered the full force of the NCAA law. So maybe the NCAA will decide to hammer Ole Miss or maybe they will skate free. Take a spin on the Wheel ‘O Justice, it's just about that random.
Because of the near entirely random nature of NCAA penalties, we're not going to speculate on what the NCAA is going to do or even what they can prove. All anyone can do is wait. OK, maybe we can enjoy a little bit of schadenfreude as this goes down, but remember that pretty much any NCAA investigation is a matter of there but for the grace of God go I.
However, we can talk a little bit about the Tunsil lawsuit a little bit. As we've learned from previous investigations, the NCAA has no subpoena power. They cannot compel anyone to testify. However, courts can, and the NCAA can use a court record as evidence in its investigation, as they did in the Miami case.
A deposition works a whole lot like witness testimony in a trial itself. The deponent is sworn in just as they would be at trial, and the court reporter transcribes the whole deposition. The questions and answers are evidence just like testimony at a trial, and are part of the court record. A witness is subject to perjury for giving false testimony.
So you can see why Hugh Freeze really doesn't want to give a deposition in the Tunsil case. He has no interest in getting hauled in to court and testify, under oath, about Ole Miss' recruiting violations. Can Tunsil's stepdad's lawyers ask about that? I mean, they aren't suing each other over NCAA rules infractions, which is not within the court's jurisdiction.
The short answer? Of course they can. A deposition may cover anything that is possible to turn up relevant evidence, and the rules of relevance are extremely lenient. As long as his lawyers can come up with a good faith argument that Ole Miss' conduct has evidentiary value in their own lawsuit against Tunsil, then its fair game.
Now, Hugh Freeze is not a party to the suit, nor is Ole Miss. The courts don't give a single damn about NCAA infractions. This case is not about how Ole Miss recruited Tunsil, it's about the defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Tunsil.
Under the rules of Mississippi civil procedure, Freeze can request restrictions placed on the deposition, as a third party to the case. Honestly, the restrictions he's requesting are reasonable and fairly common sense.
In order to prevent this from being a clown show in which the lawyers are just seeking to embarrass Ole Miss, Freeze will consent to the deposition so long as it is limited in scope, conducted entirely by written question instead of in person like trial testimony, and that the records be sealed.
Without knowing all of the details of the case, it's hard to make a prediction how the judge will rule, but these don't seem like unreasonable conditions. The most important of these is sealing the testimony so the NCAA, or the media, can't get a hold of it to embarrass the program. And let's be honest, a deposition of any head coach of any Division 1 program would likely lead to a few embarrassing facts coming out. This doesn't make Ole Miss uniquely evil or anything. I wouldn't want Les Miles under oath either, answering questions about recruiting.
No one is ever going to confuse me for someone who like Ole Miss. I'm going to open up a beer and enjoy watching them squirm under the hot glare right now. And like I've said, I'm not going to make any predictions regarding the NCAA investigation because that's like predicting a dice roll.
However, I am confident in saying that it is unlikely anything salacious will come out in regards to the lawsuit via Hugh Freeze's deposition. He may not get all of the limitations he's requesting, but he will get some of them, whether it is the scope, the format, or the availability. The court is not stupid. It's not going to allow itself to be used solely to embarrass a third party to the case.
I'm not saying we shouldn't enjoy Freeze being put in the hot spotlight. By all means, enjoy away. But don't think that anything is going to come of this, or that he is in any way admitting guilt by asking for entirely reasonable limitations on his testimony, that would be available to any third party in any lawsuit in Mississippi.
Yes, Hugh Freeze will testify in the Tunsil case. No, it will likely have no impact on the NCAA investigation. Which no one can predict anyway. Everything is still clear as mud, right?